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This is not a Simple ORDINARY LOVE

Ordinary cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from directors Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn and Bleeker Street is the story of the unexpected bumps in a couple’s life of ORDINARY LOVE.

Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) have settled into a life that is comfortable for them both. Their routine includes a brisk walk, shopping, television time and humor that is easy for this couple. The comfortable life is interrupted when Joan discovers a lump in her breast.

Keeping everything easy in conversation until they know something more, Joan and Tom continue with their life. When the results are not what they were hoping, the life they had been sharing becomes a test on everything they had been holding on to.

Early into her treatment, Joan meets Peter (David Wilmot) who is a teacher. Now Joan feels a kinship to someone who understands what having cancer brings out in emotions. Spending time in the cafeteria during Joan’s treatments, Tom meets Peter’s partner Steve (Amit Shah) and finds the same kinship of having someone you love living in fear.

As the treatment progresses so does the tension between two people who truly love one another because spending years together with a history.

Manville as Joan is a woman who will forever have a place in my heart. This film brings a very realistic look at the fear, anxiety and frustration that comes with the word ‘cancer’. Even more so for a woman when it is breast cancer. Every thought that came across her face I understood as will most women who have ever had to deal with this disease. From the moment Joan finds the lump to the very end of the film, I remembered that feeling of having no control of anything. Manville is stunning – period.

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Neeson as Tom is a man who takes life one day at a time. He wit with Joan is something I couldn’t help but laugh at. Come on, who doesn’t want a partner who can match wits and bring out the best sarcasm. Coming to terms with Joan’s prognosis, he deals with the same feelings of fear, anxiety and frustration except his tact is to keep it inside to be the strong part of the partnership. Even superman can’t keep that up before emotions come to a head. The conversation with his daughter is nothing short of heartbreaking. Well, just when I couldn’t adore Neeson more he gives me reason too.

Wilmot as Peter shares his feelings with Joan, and it is only natural that the two strike up a friendship. Being brutally honest about their feelings is something each can’t do with their partner. Shah as Steve is lost, and Tom sees it from across the room which makes their friendship a bit of a life raft.

ORDINARY LOVE is almost an indescribably film because it is based in a subject matter that most people find uncomfortable. Yes, there are films that deal with cancer, but this is a raw and in-your-face look at what it looks like skin to skin. Cancer takes, and takes, and takes and takes until the lid of safety we all create in our lives is weakened to the point of explosion.

Tom and Joan have a comfortable life but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues in the life history they share that have never been truly resolved or spoken of. This is also a time where Joan realizes things about herself that are eye opening (if cancer isn’t enough) and Tom also stretches his emotions to what seems like a dangerous place for this character.

Manville and Neeson carry this film from start to finish and they don’t slack at any point. What they give is a fantastic performance that I easily forgot was a performance. Perhaps it is because I have been in Joan’s shoes myself or perhaps, I felt she had a love with Tom that many of us didn’t have going through a difficult time.

So, what ORDINARY LOVE does for those who have experienced cancer, a reminder of what it means to survive and for those that have not experienced it, this is a film to experience how close this film truly is.

I adored Joan and Tom’s relationship in its simplicity and humor and as more of their story is revealed, you feel for this couple even more and become the outside cheerleader to push them toward healing.

In the end – love doesn’t give up.

Disney Delights to Bring Home FROZEN 2 on Bluray

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray, DVD and Digital from director Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Walt Disney Home Entertainment is the return to Arendelle and FROZEN 2.

Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), Sven and Queen Elsa (Indina Menzel) are enjoying life in their city. Since their adventure it is nice for them all to just enjoy each other’s company and the people. That is until Elsa starts to hear this strange call that no one else seems to hear.

Putting it out of her mind, the city prepares for a gathering but is suddenly interrupted by strange winds driving the towns people to a safe cliff outside Arendelle. Confused by what is happening, Queen Elsa feels as if the problems are caused by the voice that is calling out to her. Deciding that she must go and find answers, Anna and Kristoff make it clear she isn’t going alone.

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Loading up into the sled on wheels, Sven takes them to a place that both Anna and Elsa believed was only a tale their father told. A wall of mist blocks them from going forward but when Elsa touches it, a door is opened wide revealing people living on the other side. That’s when the girls discover that there is truth to the tale and that there are still more questions to be answered.

With each step they take, more and more of their parent’s life become clearer. But there comes a moment when Elsa realizes that she can no longer put Anna’s life in danger and takes the final steps of the journey alone were all is revealed – but will it be too late for Arendelle!

Bell as Anna shows a lot more maturity in this film in that she feels even more protective over her sister Queen Elsa. Still googly eyed over love Kristoff, she is back in her happy place. When the wind changes in Arendelle and she sees that something is wrong with Elsa, Anna makes it very clear from the onset that whatever it is they will face it together. Bell brings her pipes back with song, love and a whole lot of fun.

Menzel as Queen Elsa is having a difficult time concentrating on Arendelle because of the mysterious voice. Still feeling a little out of place in life, she feels there is something in the wind that is calling to her. Fight as she may, the voice is too strong to ignore. Menzel brings her voice to belt out more than one song and it is with that voice that we are with Elsa every step of this next journey.

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Groff as Kristoff is very happy with his life in Arendelle and even happier with Anna. Now ready to try something a little different, he seems to have great difficulty making it happen. Groff once again brings his charm that oozes through his voice to a character that is strong for those around him yet still has that goofiness I enjoy about this character. Oh, let us not forget Sven, he is back and just as hoppingly endearing as ever with his extended family.

Gad as Olaf is still the lovable snowman who loves everyone around him and yet still maintains that bit of innocence that makes him unforgettable. That’s what Gad brings to this character, a memorable giggle, a heart that runs over with love for Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and his good buddy Sven. He is the snowman we all wanted growing up, at least I did all those times building a snowman in Chicago. Thank Gad for bringing life to such an sweet, gentle and loving character.

Shout out to Hinds for returning as the wise and round stone Pabbie. He gave out the first warning of what was to come for Arendelle and the royal family. Brown as Mattias has his own story to tell of what lies beyond the mist and it is a story worth hearing.

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Other cast include Sterling K. Brown as Mattias, Evan Rachel Wood as Iduna, Jason Ritter as Ryder, Alan Tudyk as Northuldra, Rachel Matthews as Honeymaren, Ciaran Hinds as Pabbie and Martha Plimpton as Yelana, Alfred Molina as Agnarr and Jeremy Sisto as King Runeard.

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment began distributing under its own label in 1980 and continues to bring quality programming to kids and kids at heart. Home of the most beloved animated features including SNOW WHITE, PINOCCHIO and SLEEPING BEAUTY to name a few is what keeps families coming back for more. To see what is currently available to add to your own family library please visit. http://www.movies.disney.com for their At Home titles!

MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit www.MoviesAnywhere.com.

The Bluray and Bonus Extras include over an hour of bonuses including A Sing-Along Version of the Movie, Outtakes, Deleted Scenes, Deleted Songs, Do You Know ????, Music Videos and more! The soundtrack to FROZEN 2 have been in our car since the day of its release so now it will be fun to sing along with the film.

FROZEN 2 brings songs, fun, giggles, color and a re-connection with characters that have stayed with us all since 2013. The song “Let It Go” became an anthem for anyone who wanted to do just that even though my personal favorite was “In Summer” and who doesn’t love a lovable dreaming snowman? In FROZEN 2 we are asked to go “Into the Unknown” and Olaf brings his delightful “When I am Older”.

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It is such a precarious thing to make a sequel to such a highly successful animated film. It doesn’t always work and sometimes it works badly. Some of it might be because I always feel slightly cheated by sequels like the idea is a second thought thrown on a screen hoping it will stick with viewers.

This film is not that in the slightest. What FROZEN 2 brings is a delightful return to embraced characters that doesn’t feel like six years has even passed. It is a visually stunning feast for the eyes with rich colors which are completely dazzling. The story may have a few hiccups but seriously, let it go (and I said that).

The entire cast returns (which always is a great thing) with 8 new songs that are as powerful as the original film. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez returned to write the new songs for the film. Composer Christophe Beck also returned to bring his magic to the score.

I am hardly about to tell every detail of the film because it’s FROZEN 2 and no one, and I mean no one has the right to ruin it. This is a film about family and community, wanting to understand where we come from, learning who we are and what we are made of, protecting those we love and, of course, loving each other unconditionally.

Disney has been on a very cool winning streak with their animated films and FROZEN 2 seals the 2019 deal for them. The launch of Disney+ this week means that you can enjoy Disney films all year long which I know my granddaughter intends to do.

FROZEN 2 is a time for families to have a wonderful holiday beginning together. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf are part of our own families now and to spend 104 minutes together feels like home in many ways. Now, FROZEN can take a well-deserved Bluray break from the player and FROZEN 2 can step up to continue the joys of Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Olaf and Sven as well as new friends!

At home we can embrace our children and grandchildren as the story unfolds because we share a connection with our friends in the film. We understand the struggles, the love, friendship and caring and that makes FROZEN 2 just about everything we need in family time.

In the end – they are going into the unknown!

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is from the Heart

Beautiful Day bluray cover

Jeri Jacquin

On Bluray, DVD and Digit to delight and remind us all of our potential from director Marielle Heller and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a writer who is making a name for himself and it’s not a good one.  As no one else will work with him, Esquire editor Ellen (Christine Lahti) gives him the only assignment left which is interviewing Mr. Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Unhappy with it, wife Andrea (Susan Watson) reminds him that Mr. Rogers is an icon and to “please don’t ruin my childhood”.

Grumpy about all of it, he meets with Mr. Rogers at the studio where he makes his children’s television show. Watching his interaction with others makes Lloyd uncomfortable but for more reasons than he is ready to grasp. When it only lasts a few moments, Lloyd packs up his wife and young newborn son and its off to sister Lorraine’s (Tammy Blanchard) wedding. Also at the wedding his Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), Lloyd’s estranged father.

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An outburst at the wedding leaves both Lloyd and Jerry roughed up and at the next interview with Mr. Rogers, he notices. Talking it out makes Lloyd even more uncomfortable and can’t seem to get away fast enough. That’s when Lloyd realizes that things from his past are interfering with his present life. When Jerry tries to reach out but he just can’t get past his anger.

Throwing himself into the article, Lloyd watches Mr. Rogers and how he speaks to people, the life topics he covers and his outlook on life. Trying to grasp it all, a family issue means that Lloyd might have the opportunity to see firsthand what Mr. Rogers has been trying to tell and show him about kindness and forgiveness.

Sometimes we all just need one person to believe in us!

Hanks as Mr. Rogers is completely stunning and leaves an imprint in the heart. Because I come from a generation that knew about Mr. Rogers, I cannot think of one actor besides Hanks that could have done this film. I believe so much in what Lloyd’s wife says about not ruining our childhood and that could have easily happened. Instead, Hanks reminds us so much of why we embraced Mr. Rogers and why we hold his and our memories so dear. The calmness in the midst of so much sadness in Lloyd’s life allows us to open our hearts even further to the story we see on the screen. But do we really expect anything different from Hanks? He gives us all something to think about through his performances and in being Mr. Rogers, we owe him that much.

Rhys as Lloyd is a man who is just living life one moment at a time and it all comes from a childhood anger that he carries like a bag of bricks. Everyone seems to give him a pass with the anger he carries for his father but, as with anyone who lives for anger, the pass is about to expire. He can’t fathom how Mr. Rogers can keep his heart so open to others and feels that “Mr. Rogers” is a television persona. It’s when he puts the bag of bricks down does Lloyd have a chance to truly connect with those who continue, through it all, to love him. Of course, Mr. Rogers isn’t about to leave Lloyd to do all of it on his own.

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Watson as wife Andrea accepts Lloyd for the emotional roller coaster he always seems to be on. With a new baby to tend to, she wants more for her family in the way of connection and love. It is easy to believe Watson’s performance since it is very similar to Beth from the television drama series This Is Us. Blanchard as sister Lorraine understands Lloyds anger but in her own life is trying to make different choices. She may have made her own mistakes (such as marriages) but Blanchard shows a forgiving nature in the midst of it all.

Cooper as dad Jerry is rough around the edges and not very good at showing remorse or affection. Lloyd can’t even look at him without remembering pain and Cooper plays a man who is not only dealing with issues but trying to find a way of saying ‘I’m sorry’. Cooper has the amazing ability of playing roles that have so much depth to them once you get past the gruffness as with Jerry.

Other cast include: Maryann Plunkett as Joanne Rogers, Enrico Colantoni as Bill Isler, Wendy Makkena as Dorothy, Noah Harpster as Todd, Carmen Cusack as Margy, Maddie Corman as Lady Aberlin and Daniel Krell as Mr. McFeely.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment encompasses motion picture production for television, digital content and theater releases. The studios include Columbia Pictures, Screen Gems, TriStar Pictures, Sony Pictures Animation, Stage 6 Films and Sony Picture Classics. To see what is coming to theaters and to home entertainment please visit www.sonypictures.com.

MOVIES ANYWHERE gives viewers the ability to download the Movies Anywhere App. With that you can view films by downloading or streaming to your favorite device using a Digital Code. For more information on Movies Anywhere please visit http://www.MoviesAnywhere.com.

The Special Features include Over 15 Minutes of Additional Scenes, Blooper Reel, Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, The People Who Make a Neighborhood: The Making Of, Dreaming Big, Building Small: The Puppets & Miniatures, Daniel Tiger Explains: Practice Makes Perfect and Filmmaker Commentary.

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A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is not exactly what I expected. Yes, it’s about Mr. Rogers and yet it isn’t. It is Lloyd Vogel’s story about Mr. Rogers and how spending time with him changes everything. Then again most of us already know that it can happen because, as with my own experiences, it has before.

Mr. Rogers embraces Lloyd, whether he likes it or not, to try and show that we need one another. Being patient isn’t something Lloyd seems to have but it is something Mr. Rogers seems to have in abundance. The two most unlikely people to come together happens slowly throughout the film – and mainly due to the persistence and belief from Mr. Rogers.

Watching Rhy’s Lloyd go through his struggle is at times heartbreaking and Hanks as Mr. Rogers almost encourages us to feel that heartbreak. There is acceptance and forgiveness in each frame of the film and, to be honest, it also felt as if we didn’t we would let down Mr. Rogers!

It is the perfect time of year for A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD and for reasons that are plain but I’ll go ahead and mention them anyway. This is a film about listening to one another, offering help in any way that would ease pain, be there for those we love, forgive just as easily as we hold grudges and always embrace a couple of seconds longer just so the people we care about know that they are not alone.

In the end – we could all use a little kindness!

We Return Once Again to DOWNTON ABBEY on Bluray

Downton cover

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to Bluray/DVD and Digital from director Michael Engler, Focus Features and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment from the characters created by Julian Fellowes is the return to DOWNTON ABBEY.

The Crawley family continues normal life at Downton Abbey until Robert (Hugh Bonneville), the Earl of Grantham, receives word that the King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) are about to make a visit. Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) is thrilled but Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) goes into immediate panic especially with husband Henry (Matthew Goode) off on business. Barrows (Robert James-Collier) is now the head of the staff but Lady Mary feels as if things aren’t getting done properly.

Bringing her concerns to Lord Grantham there is only one choice, ask a retired Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to resume his duties as Downton Abbey until the visit is over and Barrows isn’t happy. Mr. Carson gets the staff in order with Andy (Michael Fox) and the return of Mr. Molesley (Kevin Doyle). Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) also has her hands full as every nook and cranny must be cleaned and there isn’t a lot of time. Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) and Daisy (Sophie McShera) begin creating a menu fit for royalty.

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Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith) doesn’t seem as nervous about the King and Queen’s visit but is concerned about seeing relative Maud Bagshaw (Imedla Staunton). The Dowager believes that Maud is trying to cut Robert out of any inheritance since being seen about with her companion Lucy (Tuppence Middleton). Isobel (Penelope Wilton) agrees to help Violet discover the true story behind Maud’s decision as husband Lord Merton (Douglas Reith) stays out of it.

Tom Branson (Allen Leech) is happy to be back at Downton Abbey and with his car business. When he learns about the King and Queen’s visit, some think that perhaps he wouldn’t be pleased out it. So much so that Mary senses something is wrong and isn’t sure what to do. Up for the festivities is Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and husband Bertie Hexham (Harry Hadden-Paton) as they make their way home.

With everything buzzing and plans being made, there is a damper on the happiness when the staff are told that they will not be handling the royal visit. Enter the very stuffy Kings manservant Mr. Wilson (David Haig), Queen’s dresser Mrs. Webb (Richenda Carey) and royal chef Monsieur Courbet (Philippe Spall). Hardly ready to relinquishing their pride in Downton Abbey, Mrs. Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Mr. Bates (Brendan Coyle) come up with a plan that is brilliant and wonderful. Barrows is also being watched by Captain Chetwode (Stephen Moore) as being upset with Mr. Carson leads him down a bad road.

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When the King and Queen finally arrive, the household is in high gear as the royal family is treated to dinner with a party to follow the next evening. That is when secrets are revealed, loyalties are tested and everyone who lives and works at Downton Abbey once again remembers how they have all come together for so long and can’t imagine anything else.

Bonneville as the Earl of Grantham returns to his role as the leader of a family who go their own way no matter what he might say about it. This character has grown to understand that things change and if he doesn’t then the Downton Abbey could fall at his feet. I adore Bonneville in this role because he has the facial expressions that say everything even if he says nothing. He clearly loves his family and what’s more is he respects those who keep his household running. McGovern as Cora is the American who has embraced the world she married into. When she is stern, it comes with a smile most often and when she is giddy her face lights up. Her character is the opposite of Robert which is why these two actors make such an awesome pairing.

Dockery as Lady Mary is such an unusual character because she gives off an air of superiority but when she lets her humanity and frailty show it is a sight for the heart to see. Carmichael as Lady Edith has finally found her niche in the world along with daughter Marigold. Now she needs to find the order of it all. Staunton as Bagshaw is a relative full of secrets and some in the family are going to make sure they know every little juicy detail. Middleton as Lucy has her own secrets but a certain Irishman only sees a lovely young girl.

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Leech as Branson has become a character that was once on the outside looking in and now on the inside looking out. Finding the middle ground has always been such a difficult process for this character but now he seems to have found it. Happy with his business and equally happy at Downton Abbey, he carries himself with such grace and still finds humor in his adopted family. Goode as Henry just goes along to get along and is happy in his marriage to Lady Mary, I wish there would have been more of him but I’m thinking it will happen. Hadden-Patton as Hexam is being pulled away by a King who has taken a liking to him and Edith finds herself being meek about it once again. I kept thinking ‘come on Edith, stand your ground!’. Reith as Lord Merton has found happiness in his life and plans to keep it that way by staying out of any family drama.

Jones and James as the King and Queen are lovely and bring their own personal baggage to Downton Abbey. They prove that even royals have family issues and through it all a sense of humor as well. Moore as Chetwode protects the royal family but has a few secrets of his own. Haig as Mr. Wilson is a man I’d throw out on his ear if it wouldn’t get me put in the Tower! Carey as Mrs. Webb would be in the pig mud right night to Mr. Wilson and to complete the threesome would be Spall as the royal chef. Those three brought enough aggravation and did it extremely well – kudos!

The return of Carter as Mr. Carson brought joy to every moment he is on screen. His presence, even when he is a bit frazzled, lets you know that everything will be alright. Right by his side is Logan as Mrs. Hughes. Never let it be said that this very elegant lady doesn’t know how to take care of her position and life with Mr. Carson. Nicol as Mrs. Patmore is a character I see as the fire that is always keeping everyone warm. Food is one thing but the obvious caring she has for those around her comes through the screen. McShera as Daisy once again puts her foot in it and manages to not be concerned with how some people love traditions and pageantry.

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James-Collier as Barrows has been in Mr. Carson’s shoes for some time and isn’t all that thrilled when he returns. So instead of dealing with it, which he never does very well, he once again finds destructive ways of handling things. Nothing he does surprises me! Doyle as Mr. Molesley is over excited and willing to put his teaching position on hold just to be in the same room as the King and Queen. Of course with this excitement comes the usual missteps that had me responding with a slap to my forehead. Fox returns as Andy who is in love with Daisy and discovers he might have a bit of a jealous streak in him.

My favorite couple ever in the entire series is Froggartt as lovely Mrs. Bates and Coyle as Mr. Bates. If there was ever a couple that went through everything horribly imaginable and came out the other side the same honorable people it is the Bates’. Froggartt is beautiful, sweet, gentle yet has a sarcastic side I love. Being the dresser for Lady Mary for years, she still wants to be at Downton Abbey and in the film gets her chance to show a side that is epic. Coyle as Mr. Bates has gone through the gambit if I do say so myself. Through it all his life has changed dramatically and yet he never once looked for an excuse for anything. That being said, planning what is planned for the staff at Downton Abbey, this husband and wife duo show they will fight for what they believe in and do it as they always have done it – together.

Now let’s talk Maggie Smith as Violet – can it be said that she is the cherry on top of a very large and very ostentatious Downton Abbey cake? Well, she is on the one in my mind. Smith is sharp, witty, and doesn’t take anything lightly. One moment she is watching everything and the next jumping in the fray to mix it up. Of course she wouldn’t be able to do some of it with her partner-in-sort-of-crime Isobel. Wilton in her supporting friendship with Violet is the yin to her yang. When these two ladies get together you can be sure it will be hilarious and the repartee a feast for the mind.

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Other cast include Raquel Cassidy as Miss Baxter, Kate Phillips as Princess Mary, Max Brown as Richard Ellis, Mark Addy as Mr. Bakewell, Michael Fox as Andy Parker, Susan Lynch as Miss Lawton, James Cartwright as Tony Sellick, Fifi Hart as Sybbie, Oliver & Zac Barker as George, Alice McCarthy as Nanny Harewood, Marina Balbara as Baroness Valerenay, Andrew Havill as Henry Lascelles, Eva & Karina Samms as Marigold, Diane Halling as Countess of Harrowby, and Perry Fitzpatrick as Chris Webster.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment has just added an amazing film to their library and making it available for us to all experience and re-experience in our own home theaters. There are film of every genre available from scary to drama to family films. For more of what they have to offer please visit www.uphe.com.

The Bluray Includes the Bonus Features of Deleted Scenes, Cast Conversations – Exclusive roundtable interviews with the Upstairs and Downstairs Cast, The Royal Visit – A look at how the royal visit proved to be an ambitious event both on and behind the camera, True to the Twenties – Fans of DOWNTON ABBEY are charmed by the sheer grandeur of the aristocracy in the early 20th century. Learn how DOWNTON ABBEY maintains a reputation of being true to the time period. Welcome to Downtown Abbey – a behind-the-scenes look at the grandeur of HIGHCLERE Castle and how it serves as a cornerstone in the Downton Abbey franchise.

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Also, The Brilliance of Julian Fellowes – Writer Julian Fellowes has created a story and beloved characters that resonate with people across the world. This piece celebrates Julian’s brilliant creativity and reveals his approach to bringing Downton Abbey to the big screen. Downton Abbey Series Recap – Whether you’re new or just need a refresher, this series recap will catch you up on the story so far and Feature Commentary with Director Michael Engler.

I discovered the series DOWNTON ABBEY completely by accident as it was on KPBS the same night as my other favorite The Great British Baking Show. It didn’t take long before I became completely engrossed in the story of the families both upstairs and downstairs. I hated when the seasons ended and I broke out the tea set when the next season came around. Little did I know that the series was exploding all over the United States.

Created by writer Julian Fellowes, it aired in 2011 telling the story of Downton Abbey in the mid-1900s of a Yorkshire estate and the Crawley family but it also told the story of the servants. There was everything imaginable happening and the cast made every bit of it magical to watch for those of us who watched week after week. Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle in north Hampshire and although there was filming in Ealing Studios, most of it is Highclere Castle both inside and out.

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Fellowes himself has had an amazing career as an actor, to launching his own series on BBC and writing a miniseries about the Titanic. He won an Oscar for Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen in 2002 for the script GOSFORD PARK and won Best Directorial Debut from the National Board of Review for SEPARATE LIES. His credit also include VANITY FAIR, THE TOURIST, FROM TIME TO TIME and one of my absolute favorite Emily Blunt films THE YOUNG VICTORIA.

DOWNTON ABBEY has become and I believe will continue to be an iconic series and now film for years to come. There is nothing that can hold a candle to it. In the four years since fans cried their eyes out at the television show finale, the film will not only make us forgive everything but thrill us once again. The story, the character, opulence, splendor, feistiness, heart, gumption, and so much more wrapped in a castle most of us know from a mere glance.

How does one thank Julian Fellowes for giving us just a little more of what we crave and an even bigger thank you to every original cast member that came back and made us feel like they didn’t miss a beat. DOWNTON ABBEY is such a beautiful film in every way and I love period pieces of all kinds but this film has a special place in my heart because the characters.

This is not just a reunion of characters, but a reunion of us along with the characters we embraced back in 2011. We want to know they are all fine in the world of Downton Abbey and that it is possible (please let it be possible) that there might be another film to continue their story.

In the end – they’ve been expecting us!

THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB is Legendary on Bluray

Tiger
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Bluray from one of the titans of cinema director Fritz Lang and Film Movement Classics are two films the set with THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB.
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THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR
Harold Berger (Paul Hubschmid) is an architect that has been asked to India by the Maharaja Chandra (Walter Reyer). His plan for the city is to build hospitals and schools for his people. On the way to Eschnapur, Berger meets a beautiful temple dancer (Debra Paget) and almost immediately the two connect. Further along the road, Seetha’s wagon is attacked by a tiger and Berger jumps into action to save her.
Maharaja Chandra is ever grateful to Berger and gives him a token of his appreciation. Now that Seetha is near, the Maharaja becomes even more infatuated with Seetha than the first time he saw her. None of this sits well with the Maharaja’s brother Prince Ramigani (Rene Deltgen) who was stepped over as ruler of Eschnapur.
So much so is the resentment that he goes to Padu (Jochen Brockmann) who’s sister was once married to the Maharaja before she passed and others who aren’t happy with Seetha’s arrival. Standing up for the Maharaja is General Dagh (Guido Celano) and standing up for tradition is the temple leader Yama (Valery Inkijinoff).
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Helping Berger put plans together for the Maharaja is Asgara (Jochen Blume), an engineer who knows the palace very well. What he doesn’t know is that whispers are going on behind the palace walls about the relationship he has with Seetha. As he learns more of her story, the more he finds himself falling for the beautiful dancer. That sets in motion a plan that the Prince has against his brother.
The Maharaja tries to capture the heart of Seetha but knows there is something she is keeping from him. When the palace whispers get to him, he holds a banquet to test his new friends loyalty. When it all goes horribly wrong, he starts to believe that Berger and Seetha are betraying him. Sensing they are in danger, the two plan to get away as fast as possible as the palace soldiers take chase. What they don’t know is that Berger’s brother-in-law Walter Rhode (Claus Holm) and sister Irene (Sabine Bethmann) have arrived.
Now the Maharaja is playing a game of his own, lying to the Rhodes’ and making Walter an offer that is beyond anything he could have imagined. Berger and Seetha are caught in a sand storm and overtake the couple in their end – or is it?
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THE INDIAN TOMB
Irene and her husband suspect that foul play is afoot in the palace and don’t trust anyone but Asagara but he isn’t getting any answers either. In the middle of the desert, a caravan has found Berger and Seetha taking them to a local village for help. Everyone is afraid because the palace soldiers have already made it known that any village helping will be dealt with.
Berger and Seetha make a run for it again but are caught! Seetha is taken back to the palace and Berger disappears. The Maharaja has taken to asking the town seer for help in dealing with his anger and after only moments is gently told what he must do but to no avail. Back at the palace, the leader of Eschnapur begins plans to marry Seetha and isn’t about to let his brother, religious leader or anyone else tell him what to do.
The Prince tries to bide his time in an attempt to make a coup. Irene has made her way to Seetha to discover what has happened and how they are all going to escape the palace. She tells Walter what she’s discovered and the two begin to make their own plans using the problems of the palace to work in their favor.
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The Maharaja is facing enemies from the palace and below it as it all comes to a finality that is as beautifully epic as it could only be.
Paget as Seetha is absolutely stunning from the first films frame to the second films last frame. There is no doubt that she is beautiful and a stunning dancer, but Paget is calmly strong in her portrayal of Seetha. Her performance is mesmerizing and as a fan of Lang I would have expected nothing less in his choice of actress to play this role. She carried herself with such grace and covered in the lavish sari’s just made her character more breathtaking.
Hubschmid as Berger is an equally calm character. He has a gentle nature and a humble spirit that makes it easy to like him. Even when he realizes his feelings for Seetha, he doesn’t outwardly act on them until he feels there is danger for both of them. Their great escape led to the second film where, shall we say, he finds out that not everyone is as forgiving as the viewer might be. Hubschmid is tall, handsome and the hero women fall for so I can see how he was also the right choice to portray Berger!
Reyer as the Maharaja is grieving the loss of his wife but finding happiness once again in Seetha. He tries over and over to make it clear that he just wants a life with her. Not thinking his brother could ever be an adversary was the beginning of his problems and unrequited love turned the tide in his good nature. Reyer has a crazy look in his eye at times and I saw even before THE INDIAN TOMB that I’d be running to get away from him way before Seetha did! Well done performance in both films with an ending that had to happen.
Der Tiger von Eschnapur
Deltgen as Ramigani is a brother who has been stepped over (or maybe even stepped on) to become Maharaja of Eschnapur. The plotting and planning is easy when you have everyone around you rubbing salt on an royal open wound. Torn between wanting to support his brother and wanting to be Maharaja, his choice is taken away by his own hurt feelings.  Brockmann as Padu has a bone to pick with the Maharaja feeling that his sister’s memory is being cast aside for Seetha. When his words are ignored, he doesn’t mind jumping on the revenge band wagon for a round or two.
Bethmann as Irene sense from the moment they arrive in Eschnapur that something is amiss. In her mind there is no way her brother would take off without communication to her. Irene is just as clever as I’d want a sister to be and doesn’t take no for an answer. Holm as Walter is outraged at the Maharaja’s request to stay and even more so when told why. He is absolutely frustrated, as Irene is, that they are not being told the truth. Holm paces so much I’m surprised there isn’t a path ground into the marble! Even Blume as Asagara is confused by the stories being told but again is loyal to the Maharaja and would never question his intentions.
Other cast include Luciana Paluzzi as Bharani, Helmut Hildebrand as Ramigani’s servant and Richard Lauffen as Bhowana.
Film Movement has released more than 250 feature films and shorts culled from prestigious film festivals worldwide. It’s theatrical releases include American independent films, documentaries and foreign art house titles. It’s catalog includes titles by directors such as Hirokazu, Maren Ade, Jessica Hausner, Andrzej Wajda, Diane Kurys, Ciro Guerra and Melanie Laurent. Film Movement Classics features new restorations of films by such directors as Eric Rohmer, Peter Greenaway, Bille August, Marlene Gorris, Takeshi Kitano, King Hu and Ettore Scola. For more information please visit www.filmmovement.com.
The Bluray Bonus Features include Audio Commentaries by film historian David Kalat, The Indian Epic documentary, Debra Paget, For Example a video essay by Mark Rappaport and 20-page booklet with an essay by film scholar Tom Gunning.
Director Lang returned to Germany after a 20 year exile and created a two-part film leaving the first with a cliffhanger to create THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. Leaving Germany before the war and going to Paris then to the United States, Lang is also responsible for the 1927 film METROPOLIS and WOMAN IN THE MOON in 1929. In the U.S. he made FURY in 1936 with Spencer Tracy and THE BIG HEAT in 1953.
He returned to Germany to create what he called his “Indian Epic” with THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB. The later was a story created by his estranged spouse Thea von Harbour in 1920 which he helped to develop. Lang was close to ending his career in 1963 because of health problems but made it into the film CONTEMPT.
THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR and THE INDIAN TOMB are epics by my standards and those of 1959 and I think it would be stunning to see on the big screen but I’ll certainly take it in my own home. The interesting part of the film is that the language is in Germany (no worries, subtitles!) but watching the film it’s easy to forget it. That’s how you know the film has captured my attention! I am a super fan of period pieces and an even bigger fan when the costuming in absolutely stunning.
These films are given so much richness by the costuming, the colors, the attention to detail and the cast carry themselves well in them. Speaking of the cast, they are impeccable in their character portrayal. Doing two films, they flow one into the next and it feels absolutely seamless. The good guys are trying hard to keep their head out of the tigers mouth and the bad guys are poking the tigers from behind.
It’s a well thought out story of family, royalty, jealousy, revenge, love, passion, exoticness, richness, and a clear message that love and jealousy cannot co-exist for brothers in the same palace.
In the end – this is an exotic Indian epic worthy of every frame!

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is from the Heart

Neighbor cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres to delight and remind us all of our potential from director Marielle Heller and Sony Pictures with A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) is a writer who is making a name for himself and it’s not a good one.  As no one else will work with him, Esquire editor Ellen (Christine Lahti) gives him the only assignment left which is interviewing Mr. Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). Unhappy with it, wife Andrea (Susan Watson) reminds him that Mr. Rogers is an icon and to “please don’t ruin my childhood”.
Grumpy about all of it, he meets with Mr. Rogers at the studio where he makes his children’s television show. Watching his interaction with others makes Lloyd uncomfortable but for more reasons than he is ready to grasp. When it only lasts a few moments, Lloyd packs up his wife and young newborn son and its off to sister Lorraine’s (Tammy Blanchard) wedding. Also at the wedding his Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), Lloyd’s estranged father.
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An outburst at the wedding leaves both Lloyd and Jerry roughed up and at the next interview with Mr. Rogers, he notices. Talking it out makes Lloyd even more uncomfortable and can’t seem to get away fast enough. That’s when Lloyd realizes that things from his past are interfering with his present life. When Jerry tries to reach out but he just can’t get past his anger.
Throwing himself into the article, Lloyd watches Mr. Rogers and how he speaks to people, the life topics he covers and his outlook on life. Trying to grasp it all, a family issue means that Lloyd might have the opportunity to see firsthand what Mr. Rogers has been trying to tell and show him about kindness and forgiveness.
Sometimes we all just need one person to believe in us!
Hanks as Mr. Rogers is completely stunning and leaves an imprint in the heart. Because I come from a generation that knew about Mr. Rogers, I cannot think of one actor besides Hanks that could have done this film. I believe so much in what Lloyd’s wife says about not ruining our childhood and that could have easily happened. Instead, Hanks reminds us so much of why we embraced Mr. Rogers and why we hold his and our memories so dear. The calmness in the midst of so much sadness in Lloyd’s life allows us to open our hearts even further to the story we see on the screen. But do we really expect anything different from Hanks? He gives us all something to think about through his performances and in being Mr. Rogers, we owe him that much.
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Rhys as Lloyd is a man who is just living life one moment at a time and it all comes from a childhood anger that he carries like a bag of bricks. Everyone seems to give him a pass with the anger he carries for his father but, as with anyone who lives for anger, the pass is about to expire. He can’t fathom how Mr. Rogers can keep his heart so open to others and feels that “Mr. Rogers” is a television persona. It’s when he puts the bag of bricks down does Lloyd have a chance to truly connect with those who continue, through it all, to love him. Of course, Mr. Rogers isn’t about to leave Lloyd to do all of it on his own.
Watson as wife Andrea accepts Lloyd for the emotional roller coaster he always seems to be on. With a new baby to tend to, she wants more for her family in the way of connection and love. It is easy to believe Watson’s performance since it is very similar to Beth from the television drama series This Is Us. Blanchard as sister Lorraine understands Lloyds anger but in her own life is trying to make different choices. She may have made her own mistakes (such as marriages) but Blanchard shows a forgiving nature in the midst of it all.
Cooper as dad Jerry is rough around the edges and not very good at showing remorse or affection. Lloyd can’t even look at him without remembering pain and Cooper plays a man who is not only dealing with issues but trying to find a way of saying ‘I’m sorry’. Cooper has the amazing ability of playing roles that have so much depth to them once you get past the gruffness as with Jerry.
Other cast include: Maryann Plunkett as Joanne Rogers, Enrico Colantoni as Bill Isler, Wendy Makkena as Dorothy, Noah Harpster as Todd, Carmen Cusack as Margy, Maddie Corman as Lady Aberlin and Daniel Krell as Mr. McFeely.
A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is not exactly what I expected. Yes, it’s about Mr. Rogers and yet it isn’t. It is Lloyd Vogel’s story about Mr. Rogers and how spending time with him changes everything. Then again most of us already know that it can happen because, as with my own experiences, it has before.
Mr. Rogers embraces Lloyd, whether he likes it or not, to try and show that we need one another. Being patient isn’t something Lloyd seems to have but it is something Mr. Rogers seems to have in abundance. The two most unlikely people to come together happens slowly throughout the film – and mainly due to the persistence and belief from Mr. Rogers.
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Watching Rhy’s Lloyd go through his struggle is at times heartbreaking and Hanks as Mr. Rogers almost encourages us to feel that heartbreak. There is acceptance and forgiveness in each frame of the film and, to be honest, it also felt as if we didn’t we would let down Mr. Rogers!
It is the perfect time of year for A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD and for reasons that are plain but I’ll go ahead and mention them anyway. This is a film about listening to one another, offering help in any way that would ease pain, be there for those we love, forgive just as easily as we hold grudges and always embrace a couple of seconds longer just so the people we care about know that they are not alone.
In the end – we could all use a little kindness!

Disney Delights with FROZEN II

Frozen cover
Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres in time to welcome us all into the holiday season from director Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Walt Disney Pictures is the return to Arendelle and FROZEN II.
Anna (Kristen Bell), Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), Olaf (Josh Gad), Sven and Queen Elsa (Indina Menzel) are enjoying life in their city. Since their adventure it is nice for them all to just enjoy each other’s company and the people. That is until Elsa starts to hear this strange call that no one else seems to hear.
Putting it out of her mind, the city prepares for a gathering but is suddenly interrupted by strange winds driving the towns people to a safe cliff outside Arendelle. Confused by what is happening, Queen Elsa feels as if the problems are caused by the voice that is calling out to her. Deciding that she must go and find answers, Anna and Kristoff make it clear she isn’t going alone.
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Loading up into the sled on wheels, Sven takes them to a place that both Anna and Elsa believed was only a tale their father told. A wall of mist blocks them from going forward but when Elsa touches it, a door is opened wide revealing people living on the other side. That’s when the girls discover that there is truth to the tale and that there are still more questions to be answered.
With each step they take, more and more of their parents life become clearer. But, there comes a moment when Elsa realizes that she can no longer put Anna’s life in danger and takes the final steps of the journey alone were all is revealed – but will it be too late for Arendelle!
Bell as Anna shows a lot more maturity in this film in that she feels even more protective over her sister Queen Elsa. Still googly eyed over love Kristoff, she is back in her happy place. When the wind changes in Arendelle and she sees that something is wrong with Elsa, Anna makes it very clear from the onset that whatever it is they will face it together. Bell brings her pipes back with song, love and a whole lot of fun.
Menzel as Queen Elsa is having a difficult time concentrating on Arendelle because of the mysterious voice. Still feeling a little out of place in life, she feels there is something in the wind that is calling to her. Fight as she may, the voice is too strong to ignore. Menzel brings her voice to belt out more than one song and it is with that voice that we are with Elsa every step of this next journey.
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Groff as Kristoff is very happy with his life in Arendelle and even happier with Anna. Now ready to try something a little different, he seems to have great difficulty making it happen. Groff once again brings his charm that oozes through his voice to a character that is strong for those around him yet still has that goofiness I enjoy about this character. Oh let us not forget Sven, he is back and just as hoppingly endearing as ever with his extended family.
Gad as Olaff is still the lovable snowman who loves everyone around him and yet still maintains that bit of innocence that makes him unforgettable. That’s what Gad brings to this character, a memorable giggle, a heart that runs over with love for Elsa, Anna, Kristoff and his good buddy Sven. He is the snowman we all wanted growing up, at least I did all those times building a snowman in Chicago. Thanks Gad for bringing my childhood character to life.
Shout out to Hinds for returning as the wise and round stone Pabbie. He gave out the first warning of what was to come for Arendelle and the royal family. Brown as Mattias has his own story to tell of what lies beyond the mist and it is a story worth hearing.
Other cast include Sterling K. Brown as Mattias, Evan Rachel Wood as Iduna, Jason Ritter as Ryder, Alan Tudyk as Northuldra, Rachel Matthews as Honeymaren, Ciaran Hinds as Pabbie and Martha Plimpton as Yelana, Alfred Molina as Agnarr and Jeremy Sisto as King Runeard.
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FROZEN II brings songs, fun, giggles, color and a re-connection with characters that have stayed with us all since 2013. The song “Let It Go” became an anthem for anyone who wanted to do just that even though my personal favorite was “In Summer” and who doesn’t love a lovable dreaming snowman?
It is such a precarious thing to make a sequel to such a highly successful animated film. It doesn’t always work and sometimes it works badly. Some of it might be because I always feel slightly cheated by sequels like the idea is a second thought thrown on a screen hoping it will stick with viewers.
This film is not that in the slightest. What FROZEN II brings is a delightful return to embraced characters that doesn’t feel like six years has even passed. It is a visually stunning feast for the eyes with rich colors which are completely dazzling. The story may have a few hiccups but seriously, let it go (and I said that).
The entire cast returns (which always is a great thing) with 8 new songs that are as powerful as the original film. Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez returned to write the new songs for the film. Composer Christophe Beck  also returned to bring his magic to the score.
Am I being extremely vague in my description of the film…well, yes! I am hardly about to tell every detail of the film because it’s FROZEN II and no one, and I mean no one has the right to ruin it. This is a film about family and community, wanting to understand where we come from, learning who we are and what we are made of, protecting those we love and, of course, loving each other unconditionally.
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Disney has been on a very cool winning streak with their animated films and FROZEN II seals the 2019 deal for them. The launch of Disney+ this week means that in a few months you can FROZEN and FROZEN II all year long which I know my granddaughter intends to do.
FROZEN II is a time for families to have a wonderful holiday beginning together. Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, Sven and Olaf are part of our own families now and to spend 104 minutes together feels like home in many ways. In the theatre we embrace our children and grandchildren as the story unfolds because we share a connection with our friends on the screen. We understand the struggles, the love, friendship and caring and that makes FROZEN II just about everything we need in family time.
In the end – they are going into the unknown!

Put on your Running Shoes for BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON

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Jeri Jacquin
Coming to Amazon Prime from writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo is the story we listen to and the one we create for ourselves with BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON.
Brittany (Jillian Bell) is a 20-something New Yorker who is a greeter at a way-off Broadway theatre. Living with social media grabber Gretchen (Alice Lee), the two party till the break of dawn with drinking and a few other substances. When the supply runs low, Brittany heads to the nearest doctor but instead the only prescription she gets is to lose weight and get healthy.
Thinking maybe it’s time and realizing paying for a gym is to hysterical to contemplate, she decides to be her own gym. Stepping out for her first run she sees Catherine (Michaela Watkins), a neighbor Brittany believes lives the perfect live which is annoying. Instead, Catherine invites her to join a running group meeting another new friend Seth (Micah Stock).
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Seeing that Gretchen is just not going to support anything other than Brittany being the overweight, third wheel, partying friend, she looks for work that will get her away. Becoming a house and pet sitter she meets Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar), who has found a way to work the system which annoys Brittany as well.
But the running starts to show results and Brittany can’t believe it, pound after pound she begins to find a little bit of self-respect and decides to run a marathon. Catherine and Seth are so excited that the three of them are going accomplish it together! That is until Brittany hurts her ankles and is forced to put her dream on hold.
Hurt by it all she returns to some of her old habits such as eating and being a little more than nasty to anyone around her. Ignoring Catherine and Seth the downward spiral continues until brother-in-law Demetrius (Lil Rel Howery) who has always been there for her sets Brittany sternly straight.
Brittany has her own personal epiphany about her friendships, what she wants for her life and who is important but does she have the nerve to change everything?
Bell as Brittany reminds me of someone, oh yes, me (the funny part that is)! She is sharp, funny, and self-deprecating  and not quite sure how she fits in the world. Barely squeaking by has worked for her through the years but at 28-years-old, squeaking by is no longer working. That’s what makes this character so engaging, most of us have been through those emotions or actions sometime in our lives. Bell gives us all the excuses and all the attitude and I feel hook, like and sneaker!
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Watkins as Catherine is a woman who clearly has been misunderstood by every person she has come into contact with. A private person who is dealing with her own issues, that becomes clear to Brittany who has to adjust her long time bogus thinking about people in general. Lee as Gretchen is another person who is on the opposite end of Catherine as she is out there putting her business in the street. As with most social media addicts it’s all about her world and everyone else is just living in it. Stock as Seth is such a heartwarming friend who sticks with Brittany when most would turn tail and run!
Ambudkar as Jern is funny, irreverent and is the opposite of Brittany in the sense that she takes everything like a direct hit to the heart and Jern is more the slow-down-and-smoke-a-bowl type. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t care, he just cares differently than Brittany which she can’t grasp. Howrey as Demetrius is the guy we all wish we had in our lives in that he has been there through everything and still sees the best but don’t think he won’t check a body if they are being just plain wrong.
Other cast include Patch Darragh as Doctor Falloway, Erica Hernandez as Molly, Dan Bittner as Terrence, Mikey Day as Dev, Kate Arrington as Cici, Beth Malone as Tesla, and Esteban Benito as Peter
Amazon Prime Video is a Video on Demand service that is developed, owned and operated by Amazon. They provide such shows such as JACK RYAN, THE BOYS, BOSCH and THE MARVELOUS MRS. MAISEL. To find out more of what they have to offer please visit www.amazon.com.
BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON is a film that on the surface is witty, funny, sarcastic and a bit shallow. That’s how it starts but as the film gets deeper it is still witty, funny and throws of sarcasms but the “bit shallow” part starts to melt away slowly. Instead of a woman who seems to be just Adderall-floating by in life, a person who has come to believe everything she’s ever been told about herself emerges.
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Having never really made the important choices, her bell has been rung and it’s time to come out fighting. That doesn’t mean there aren’t set back and life disappointments (welcome to adulthood Brittany!), but it is in how she handles those same setbacks that are what show her growth from the beginning of the film to the end.
Oh I realize we’ve all done this in one form or another but seeing it all in one film certainly brings any unanswered life questions right to the face. It’s nice when a movie can make one laugh at it all but still walk away thinking ‘am I doing all I want to do?’.
In the end – you can’t rush progress!

SAVING LENINGRAD

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Jeri Jacquin
Coming to theatres from writer/director Aleksey Kozlov and Universal Pictures International is the story of hope and survival when SAVING LENINGRAD.
It is war between the Russian people and German soldiers in the Soviet Union in 1941 and the people of Leningrad are being evacuated. On Lake Lodoga is an old barge, number 752, that is being loaded with soldiers and civilians. Trying to get on board is cadet Kostya Gorelov (Andrey Mironov-Udalov) and his girlfriend Nastya Tkachoyva (Maria Melniova). Also getting on board is Vadim Petruchik (Gela Meskhi), a NKVD investigator who has papers that he deems important to the war.
When Gorelov’s group is taken off the boat to head to the front, his father Col. Nikolai Gorelov (Vitaliy Kishchenko) makes a last minute decision. What Nastya doesn’t know is that after leaving her mother Nariya (Anastasiya Melnikova) behind, that her father Alexandr (Valeriy Degtyar) has been released from prison and sent to that very front.
Petruchik recognizes Nastya and can’t stop himself from bringing up her father’s past or putting thoughts in her head about Kostya. He also realizes who Kostya’s father is but has no problem threatening him as well. Trying to make the best of the frightening situation isn’t helping the couple deal with their own issues.
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On land the fighting increases as the soldiers march toward the battle. In front of them is a hill that is wiping out soldier after soldier. That doesn’t stop the men from doing what they must to hold the enemy back. When leaders of the platoons fall, new leaders emerge with a call to arms that the Germans couldn’t even imagine coming.
Believing the barge is the only chance for evacuation, it is sent out onto the lake for the crossing. What they didn’t expect was a storm that ravages the ship to the point of bring on water and have to start dumping everything on the deck. Nastya sees that Kostya is doing his part as more and more being to try and save the ship.
Thinking they might still have a chance, from the air comes more terror as the scattering begins. Those on board don’t have much to fight with and try to fight back with all they have but it might not be enough to save the barge or the people below in the holds.
This is a story of survival.
Mironov-Udalov as Kostya is clearly a young man in love but he is also a soldier. Sort of a considered a lady’s man, no one is really sure if the new girl is serious or he’s just trying to impress her. That perception changes quickly when he makes sure she is safely aboard the barge. It is his own father that makes arrangements for Kostya and it is something that troubles him not wanting problems for his father. With the decision made, Kostya doesn’t hesitate to do whatever is necessary to save the people on board.
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Melniova as Nastya is a young woman in love who will follow her man to start a new life. The problem is the old one isn’t quite finished with either of them yet. Trying to be supportive, she does manage to let Petruchik get into her head questioning Kostya’s motives. Eventually she sees what her man is made of! Melnikova as mother Nariya has tried to live her life raising daughter Nastya alone while her husband is in prison. Trying to stay clear of losing her job with the government (not a good idea to anger them), she knows her daughter is on the barge and husband is being sent to war.
Meskhi as Petruchik is a power hungry narcissist who has a penchant for striking fear into people. He causes trouble between Kostya and Nastya in different ways. Petruckik makes it perfectly clear that all he has to do is snap his fingers and life will be difficult for them both, the thing is they have more serious problems waiting for them than his snappy fingers. Absolute power corrupts absolutely and the character of Petruckik could be their poster child!
Degtyar as Nastya’s father Alexandr is finally released from prison but doesn’t escape his fate. Being sent to fight the war may seem crazy considering his age but he accepts it and is stronger than most of the soldiers. Kishchenko as Col. Nikolai Gorelov is definetly a military man who is facing some hard and painful decisions. He may be a soldier but he’s also Kostya’s father and when those two parts of him collide, one side wins out.
Other cast include: Aleksey Shevchenkov as Erofeev, Elena Zimina as Zoya, Sergey Zharkov as Gena Bukin, Ivan Lyrchikov as Andrey Babintsev, Maria Kepustinskaya as Sveta,Yesenia Raevskaya as Pomerantseva, Vadim Andreyev as Skyortsov, Inga Strelkova-Oboldina as Galochka, Vladimir Petrov as Sasha, Stepan Yakovlev as Seryozha, Vladimir Seleznev as Yarygin, Mikhail Morozov as Vitya, Evgenia Lyubimova as Lyusya, Pavel Grigoriev as Mikhail and Natalya Tkachenko as Liza.
SAVING LENINGRAD is a story of a young couple in love, parents and their children, soldiers, enemies and war. It is also about decisions made because of connections people have with one another. There are good guys and there are bad guys and the problem can often be that both of those are on the same side.
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I am a serious lover of period pieces and this film falls nicely into that category. The costuming and sets all take the viewer into that time period. It is in the costuming and sets that we as the viewer either go for the ride the story is telling or fall behind. I went completely for the ride. Having never heard this story I was interested in every aspect of what was happening and shared in the characters ultimate acceptance of how it all turns out.
They story is based on the actual events of barge number 752. Initially, the barge was used to transport supplies to Leningrad for the survival of the people. Their food transport had to be used for people because an evacuation was deemed an emergency and 1,000 people were loaded on. On September 17, 1941, 460 people would lose their lives on barge 752 and the tow boat Selemzha.
Although SAVING LENINGRAD is a film about the war between Germany and Russia, once the boat sails it becomes about the barge 752 and those aboard. Already considered a dangerous proposition, the fight for survival began the moment it left the dock – little did they know that survival was about to be taken to a higher level.
In the end – the fight has just begun!

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